When You are a Recovering Shopaholic, But Your Love Language is “Gifts”

Gifting as an Act of Love

When you love someone, there are a multitude of ways to show it. Author, Gary Chapman identifies five “Love Languages” in his book, The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts.[1]If you are curious what your Love Language is, the author has a quiz to help you find out https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes Most people have a primary love language and maybe a secondary love language. Of the languages, I think “gifts” is often the most misunderstood.

At first blush, it may seem that the person who feels exceptionally loved when they get a gift is greedy, selfish, and materialistic. But, when a person with the gift love language is given something there is a deeper meaning associated with it. They likely feel the other person was thinking of them in their absence, believe the giver wants to uplift their mood, or that the giver cared to pay attention, knowing them well enough to understand their wants, needs, and tastes. 

When gifts is your love language, not only is it about being a recipient, but you also delight in being the giver. Gifting is my love language and I get more excited by giving presents than receiving them. So what are you to do when you have a shopping problem that you want to stop, but your love language is gifts? 

I hope I convey throughout this blog that I don’t advocate for an extreme approach of never buying anything. It is possible to shop and gift responsibly, but it requires thoughtfulness and planning. That brings me to my first point (which always seems to be my first point), understanding your money and having a plan for what you will spend, aka a budget.


Include a “gifting” category in your budget. Even if gifts is not your language, it’s still a good idea to have something set aside if there are cultural traditions you participate in, whether that is holidays, or even treating others on their birthdays. 

There are many ways to slice this part of your budget. You might have a budget for each special person in your life, which can be an excellent strategy if you have more than one child and you want to keep things fairly equal between them. Or you could have a budget for each event, milestone, or season (weddings, Rakhi, Christmas). 

Keep it simple. Gifts do not have to be grand, over the top gestures. Queue holiday commercials of a spouse being surprised with a luxury vehicle in the driveway, complete with a big red bow on top. Where does one even get a bow that large? 

As a Gift Languager (I should coin that), even the smallest things that would not even be considered as a gift by most, makes me happy to bestow. I don’t think my husband will ever truly understand why I am so excited to give him his favorite treat I unpredictably picked up for him on my regular grocery store trip. I’m like, “Don’t you understand?! These cookies represent my undying love and commitment to you!”

Is it Impulsive?

This is a tricky one. I have written a series of posts on impulse spending that you can read here and here. Impulse spending is often what leads many people into debt. However, some of the most delightful gifts purchased have been things that I just happened upon. Such is the case at fine art fairs, which we frequent as one of my family members is a professional artist. This is where I come across unexpected, unique items. The cost at these events can vary widely, from affordable jewelry and functional pottery, to pricy original paintings and large metal sculptures. 

Just because a purchase was not meticulously planned does not mean it is off limits. In the art fair example, here are a couple of ways to handle the situation. First, you guessed it, check to see if the item is in your budget. If it is, still delay the purchase. Walk around a bit and give yourself some distance. This will give you time to see if it is an impulse that will wane. If it is still niggling at you, then you might decide to go ahead with the purchase. 

If you don’t want to walk away because the it is one of a kind, as can be the case at art fairs, see if the vendor is willing to hold the it for a limited time while you consider. But do give them the courtesy of returning and letting them know if you decided not to get it. A second option is to get the artist’s card with their contact details. You can contact them later after providing yourself more time to think or time to save up money. Many artists are happy to make what you want or even create something custom. 

Do They Want It or Do You Just Want Them to Have It?

You might be very excited about something you found that just screams (insert name of loved one here). However, similar to the idea that just because something is beautiful does not mean you have to own it, just because something matches someone’s tastes does not mean they necessarily want it.  

An example of this is if your loved one practices minimalism. These individuals are often very thoughtful about what they bring into their homes. They prioritize cultivating a life that is less cluttered by material things so they can focus more on what they value, often time with others or pursuing interests. 

My sister and I both practice minimalism, and we are both Gift Languagers. We’ve discussed not exchanging gifts between the two of us, but we happen to be each other’s favorite person to give presents to! Oh the conundrum. We have found a fairly effective balance of primarily giving consumables, like fancy food and beauty products, or even gifting to charitable organizations in honor of the other. However, I don’t advocate for rigidity, and occasionally I buy something non-consumable that screams “Amanda would love this!” 

What’s Their Love Language?

Remember, there are four other love languages: words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, and physical touch. Some people would choose for you to do the dishes over a present any day!

One of my closest friend’s love language is words of affirmation. When I want to express my gratitude for our friendship, I do sometimes get her gifts. But more often than not, I speak her language through cards, notes, and texts. 

Are There Other Ways To Express Your Love?

I believe a core part of gifting is thinking of the other person, which is why words of affirmation, like I mentioned above, is a great substitute language. Instead of buying, simply send a text or call to say, “I was thinking about you just now and I hope you are having a good day.” 

Another form of gift giving is to make something by hand. You might already naturally be a crafty person and this will come easily to you. But, it need not be overly complicated. Baking, making sea salt hand scrub, or bringing some basil from your garden can be extra satisfying for you as the giver as well as appreciated by the recipient. 

What Do Your Loved Ones Want for You?

Those who care for you want you to take care of your needs. If you are in debt or other areas of your life are being negatively impacted by a shopping addiction, someone who loves you would not want you to add to your burden by giving them something that costs money. If they know you are trying to recover from a shopping addiction the gift might bring more distress than joy for the recipient. 

Do You Fear What Might Happen If You Don’t Give Gifts?

While giving a gift can be an expression of love, for some people there is an underlying fear that they will not receive love unless they offer something material. Often this comes from a negative core belief that they do not have anything of value to offer others. 

It’s worth considering if this might be a motivation for you, and if so, take a step back and look more closely at what else makes you a valuable family member or friend. If you are having a hard time coming up with anything, ask your family and friends what they appreciate about you. That will probably be scary, especially if you only see yourself in a negative light. However, if you challenge yourself to ask others, you might be pleasantly surprised to hear what they have to say.

The Strength of Generosity

To express love through gift giving is a display of the strength of generosity. Consider the values that underlie these gestures. You likely want to share moments of joy with those you care for. A way to move forward is considering the balance that is most effective for you. Sometimes you will choose to bless others with gifts and sometimes through a different language. Start to pay attention to how often you only speak gifts and then slow down to add some of the other languages in the mix. All languages are valid and fluency in multiple will bring abundance to everyone.


1 If you are curious what your Love Language is, the author has a quiz to help you find out https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes

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